New Democratic Relief Bill Would Extend Airline Aid to March

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Airline workers facing massive job losses this week would get a six-month reprieve in a House bill that includes more than $28 billion in payroll assistance for the industry.

The latest pandemic relief package proposed by House lawmakers would give $25 billion to passenger carriers and $3 billion to airline contractors to cover their payrolls through next March. A previous measure to protect those jobs expires on Thursday and airlines have warned they will have to cut tens of thousands of jobs without additional relief.

The bill would also provide an additional $13.5 billion for airports, which have been hit as hard as airlines by dramatic drops in passengers during the pandemic. At least 25% of the aid must go to airport restaurants and retailers under the House proposal.

Airlines have lost about 68% of passengers compared to 2019, according to the latest seven-day average count from the Transportation Security Administration.

While senators from both parties have endorsed the airline payroll money, the bill’s fate is uncertain in that chamber and wrapped up in a larger fight over the size of Covid-19 relief. Negotiations between the two chambers and the White House have so far failed to yield a deal in spite of the Oct. 1 start of airline job cuts and the rapidly approaching elections.

Aviation groups overwhelmingly supported the House action.

“The prolonged downturn in commercial aviation related to Covid-19 continues to cost airports billions of dollars, and the longer that slowdown persists, the more those losses mount,” said Kevin Burke, president of the Airports Council International-North America trade group.

Nicholas Calio, the president of the trade group Airlines for America, said in a statement on Monday night, “We applaud the congressional leadership for acknowledging the urgency of the situation and are grateful for the continued strong, bipartisan support from Congress.”

“But time is running out to protect the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of U.S. airline employees,” Calio said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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